Sep 15, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) runs for yardage after recovering a fumble from Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar (25) (not pictured) during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs Make An Interesting Move In The Secondary

Most of the time spent after the Chiefs devastating loss in the playoffs was spent complaining about the play of the secondary, specifically at safety. Many pointed to Seattle’s one-deep defense and then compared it to the play of Kendrick Lewis and Quintin Demps and declared the safety position a serious hole in the defense. So serious, in fact, many thought the Chiefs should draft a safety with their first round pick.

It appears the Chiefs have an in-house plan for dealing with the free safety position.

This is interesting. The knock on Eric Berry has been he is not a playmaker in the passing game, specifically in coverage. As a result he is moved around the field, and lines up just about everywhere else other than a free safety. Berry spent a lot of time as the second middle linebacker next to Derrick Johnson in passing downs for example.

It appears the Chiefs now plan on moving Berry to the free safety position and are going to let Husain Abdullah roam around as the box safety. A curious decision, indeed.

There is something to keep in mind about Berry as a cover safety: He’s better at it than you’d think. Pro Football Reference gave Berry a +12.5 coverage grade last season, third best amongst all safeties in the NFL. Here’s a chart we used in a previous post explaining Berry’s coverage abilities from a year ago.

Catch Percentage
PFF Coverage Grade
Eric Berry6358.7+12.5
Earl Thomas2864.3+11.1
Kam Chancellor4170.7+4.5
Husain Abdullah (2011)2369.6+0.1
Quintin Demps2755.6-0.6
Kendrick Lewis-1.272.7-1.2

We are not arguing here whether or not Berry is a better cover safety than Kam Chancellor or Earl Thomas, but are instead pointing out that Berry has the abilities to be a very good cover safety in Bob Sutton’s scheme. Images of larger tight ends like Antonio Gates dragging Berry down the field are surely going to be in the minds of a lot of people when thinking of Berry as a coverage guy, but don’t let those few instances blind you from Berry’s larger body of work.

Consider, too, what Berry was asked to do in previous seasons. As a cover two safety, Berry is reading and reacting more than he is being asked to make an aggressive play. Berry also lost a season to a knee injury – coming off a rookie season where is was an average cover man – and then struggled to regain trust in his knee early in 2012. But even in 2012 he showed signs of being a good cover safety.

2012 First 8 Games: -7.9 PFF coverage grade, 3 TDs, INT, a pass defended, 73.9% percentage caught

2012 Last 8 Games: +5.5 PFF coverage grade, 2 TDs, 7 passes defended, 50% percentage caught

Again, not all-World “greatest cover safety of all-time” numbers in the second half of 2012, but clearly a big difference in his ability to stop the pass. Add those last eight games to his 2013 numbers and there is a strong record building in favor of Berry growing as a pass defender.

Berry is the most stable force on this team to play the one-deep coverage concept. This is a move that should work out well for Sutton and the Chiefs.

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  • Nick the Kick

    Yes!!! If Berry can hold up as a ball hawking coverage stud our defense could be top of the league great!

  • freshmeat62

    When Berry came out for the draft one of his attributes was that he was a good cover guy. There was even talk that he could play corner. I do remember Gates beating him bad right after his comeback from the knee injury, but I think he is better now. What intrigues me the most, is that the Chiefs are trying different ideas. Screw the paradigm, get inventive.

  • Reggie Flenory

    Good move eb can just focus on playing one position now

  • Deaudrey Dre-Mac MacDonald

    He did this at Tennessee as was the 5th pick of the draft so he can do this

    • Reggie Flenory

      Mos def i like the move and we still got sanders commimgs a second yr safety thats gonna play well

    • cd3382

      Yea, EB actually did cover a lot when he was college. He can do it for sure.

      • Deaudrey Dre-Mac MacDonald

        People forget that thats why he was drafted ahead of Earl Thomas because he can cover the field better that Thomas coming out of college. This might be the best move for him because even though he plays that box safety well, deep safety is his strong suit…JMO

  • Alucard

    every one is talking about losing Kendrick Lewis but he is 50% why we lost that game he cant cover the only time i seen eb having trouble was in 2011 if i remember correctly he did very well ageist the donkeys

  • Blaize Richardson

    This could be awesome for our defensive. Eric Berry has the natural skill set to be successful in this role. It will be interesting to see if this is the long term plans the Chiefs have for him, or if this was just a one off thing. They could be moving him there permanently or just having him practice there, because they plan on constantly moving him around again, like they did last year.

  • Michael Shaw

    Can someone answer me a quick likely dumb question………..but isn’t Sanders Commings listed as a CB and not a Safety?? I noticed this last weekend when I dusted the dust off of my Madden 25 to play a game.

    • Spencer

      madden is one of the worst places to look at anything football…positions (which it regularly gets wrong) and Cummings ONLY lined up at safety in his limited playing time last year, he never saw the field as a cb…

      • berttheclock

        Geez, but, don’t some “Great Football MInds?” always use Number 7 for their QBs on Madden?

        Great point about a play game.

      • Michael Shaw

        Thanks for the clarification. I don’t live where I can see the practices so I havent been able to see where he lines up in practice or most pre season games. But everywhere I look it seems they have him listed as a CB. That is why I was dumbfounded why they drafted another CB and not a S.

    • micah stephenson

      He started off at cb but the online roster updates put him n a FS. He is very useful at both positions becuase of age, speed, hight, contract, ect

  • tmahawk

    I hope!! they use him this way all last yr when we was getting beat deep I was say what is berry down low. Glad to hear it. Should of done it last yr though.

    • Ben Nielsen

      And put Kendrick Lewis in the box? Chiefs didn’t really have an option but to keep him in the box last year.

      • tmahawk

        Yo little to late.

  • mnelson52

    Im for trying new things to see what makes the team the strongest. I wouldn’t care if they put Berry at NT and Poe at corner if that would give us the best chance to win.

    • CaliChief83

      Ha! Could you imagine Poe on a press man coverage. He’d just break every receiver he came across. You might be onto something. Lol.

      • BWrangler

        He’s got five yards to wreak havoc!

        • mnelson52

          He may just have 5 yds. to live…lol

      • sidibeke

        Bump and stop coverage. Like it.

  • berttheclock

    Very interesting. Ben, thank you for running a thread on what is happening at OTAs.

    • Ben Nielsen

      No problem. Trying to run anything that’s interesting.

  • A1 Yola

    A. Gates loves playing against Berry!!

    • Ben Nielsen

      Indeed he does.

  • Calchiefsfan

    Berry is stellar no matter what position he plays. I wonder if Sutton has him playing there for depth purposes but intends to continue to use him in the box once the season gets under way. Possibly giving Commings time to grow into the position. Just a thought. It’s still early. I agree with tmahawk, Sutton should have figured this out last year. We might have won two more games and the Indy game if he had.
    One more thing to watch for in the preseason games. I haven’t looked this forward to the preseason in years.

    • Ben Nielsen

      This preseason has position battles all over the place. Should be a lot of fun to watch the full four quarters (weird).

  • Calchiefsfan

    Thanks Ben, keep it coming!

  • KCMikeG

    This was where and how Berry played in college and his rookie ProBowl year. Yes he had some struggles – hello he was a rookie. I think dropping him into the box was wrong for us and am excited to see him roving over the top striking like a heat seeking missile.

  • chief4ever

    Berry is a great fit for this move ! Especially with the potential DE, OLB, ILB options we have against the run with Poe as the anchor in the middle.
    FYI: forget about Gates (33 yrs old, 872 yds and 4 TD’s last year)….I hope Julius Thomas does not continue his improvement, but Berry can cover the TE’s !. Go Chiefs !

  • Stacy D. Smith

    VERY interesting.

  • Stan Colbert

    Berry played deep safety some last year and Sutton says he likes his safetys to be interchangeable. Unless there has been some announcement. I would say this has more to do with who was playing other safety.